Former Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky’s baseball career came to a shattering stop when he threw what is remembered as “the pitch heard around the world.” He had made a stunning recovery and returned to the mound after his first bout with cancer and a torn deltoid. In his next start, Dravecky threw a pitch that snapped his humerus, causing the follow-through to resemble, horrifyingly, a wet noodle swinging around his body. His baseball career was over, but his battle with cancer wasn’t. In 1991, after officially retiring from the game, Dravecky had to have his arm amputated in order to stop the spread of cancer from taking his life.
Had we found ourselves in his shoes, we’d see a bleak future. He certainly did at the time. But since then, Dravecky has found his faith in God to be a source of endless strength. Currently serving as the Giants’ Community Ambassador, Dravecky now shares his story of perseverance and faith in God with the Giants’ community.
“I get to live my testimony,” he says, with just as much excitement as if he’s stepping onto the Giants’ mound for the first time. “I get to go into the [baseball] environment and engage with people. I get to love on them as Christ would.”
Dravecky makes more than twenty appearances a year at major-league ballparks to spend time with fans. His favorite thing to do is to engage with others who share the same love for the game. Whether that’s speaking for the Giants, celebrating the opening of new ballparks the Giants establish for underprivileged youth in the Bay Area, or sharing his story, Dravecky serves the people of baseball with a passion.
“Though I don’t wear the uniform anymore,” he says, “I love being a part of the Giants’ family today.”
Baseball holds a sense of athletic nostalgia for Dravecky, but it goes deeper than that; it was within the community of baseball that he came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
“I was 25 years old,” remembers Dravecky, “playing on the San Diego Padres, when a teammate of mine, Byron Ballard, presented me with a challenge. Byron challenged me to open the Bible and find out who Jesus is. Raised up in the Catholic Church, I had been taught to fear and respect the Bible, so I was open to trying this.
Dravecky spent that summer with six other Padres, searching the Bible for answers.
“On August 27, 1981, my wife, Jan, and I gave our lives to Christ and were baptized,” says Dravecky with evident joy. “Our lives were changed.”
Ever since, he has wanted to challenge others, in the same way that his fellow Padre once challenged him.
“Byron may not have made it to the major leagues, but he’s in my all-time hall of fame,” Dravecky says with obvious love and affection.
Dravecky’s journey of faith has continued since that day. Through the ups and downs of his career and ministry, he’s been challenged daily to trust in Jesus.
“I’m continually reminded of God’s love and grace despite my sin,” he relates, with gratitude in his voice. “No sin, no failure can separate me from His love. When Jesus came into my life, He saved me. He made me brand new.”
Desiring to live out his faith in Jesus as his Savior, Dravecky leans on God and on the community of Christians around him to strengthen and challenge him.
“The community I most seek is fellowship with Christ,” he stresses. “But I also know the value of relationships with other Christians. We need to trust each other, be vulnerable, and be encouraged in our faith.”
Dravecky has experienced the importance of having others around him to lift him up when he’s struggling, and point him towards Christ.
“I still battle sin,” he admits, “but now it has no power over me. I know that when I sin, God uses that to mature me and make me more like Him. God doesn’t punish His children; He disciplines us because He loves us.”
Saved by grace, he often reflects upon the goodness of God and challenges others to do the same.
“As believers,” says Dravecky, “we don’t go often enough back to the day we became believers and remember what it really means to be saved. We don’t remember what really happened on that day. I’ve been given freedom and life in Christ; now I get to let that be reflected in how I live.”